Castles of Lviv Part 1: Olesko Castle
Updated: Feb 22, 2019
It's amusing to think how 14th century warriors defending this castle would have reacted if they could see through time, into the 21st century, and watch as invading hoards of tourists spilled out from buses armed with cameras and an unbridled desire to pee. Bus travel in the summer heat does get dangerous.
About an hour and a half drive from Lviv, in Western Ukraine, sits a relic from a different time. But not too different, because I can totally see myself setting up shack here. The bathrooms would definitely need to be put in though.
Olesko castle stands on a hill, which centuries ago was surrounded by a moat. It was first a strategic defence point and later a fancy manor for aristocrats. Sometimes Hungarian aristocrats, at other times Polish, and even the mighty Lithuanians had their hands on this castle when the borders shifted their way.
A huge door leads visitors to the open courtyard of the castle. Inside, guards could watch the surrounding fields from a parapet wall.
A huge well sits under the archway on the left. There is another entrance to it from inside the castle and it is the stuff of nightmares.
There it is, an ugly demonic gargoyle on the wall, casting curses on you just for coming by trying to get a little bit of water from the well.
This is one of those times when you should definitely not look down to the bottom. Mostly because there is no bottom, this spiralling hell tunnel just sinks into the netherworld.
Most happily, the upstairs part of the castle is significantly less haunted. There are colourful walls and period furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries. None of the furniture is original to the castle though, it was all moved off in the 18th century by Rzewuski's who bought another castle nearby and decided to save on additional shopping expenses.
There are actually interior design experts who gather furnishings from a particular era and style historical buildings as realistically as possible to a specific time period. This is not one of those examples.
There was quite a large collection of religious works, most of which were by anonymous artists. It was considered far too vain to claim the artistic piece as one's own.
However one artist did dare attach his name to his works; Johann Goerg Pinsel. In addition to having a huge art gallery in his name in Lviv, he also had a room full of sculptures in this castle.
The ambivalent tourists below provide an impressive scale to Pinsel's carved figures mounted on the wall. These would of course have been part of a church interior before.
If medieval iconography if your cup of tea, this castle is a dream. Personally, I had only one pressing question that day: how do you make paint out of gold? Evidently one would need a loose gold leaf and some gum arabic. Here's a handy link in the event you'd like to experiment.
It pains me that they don't do murals in modern houses anymore. Imagine you're having a terrible conversation but there happens to be a mural such as this lovely valley painted on the wall. Why, you could do a Narnia mind jump right inside and have a fantastic adventure while still physically participating in the aforementioned conversation.
This stern lady went from being a mistress to Queen of Poland. Behold Barbara Radziwil, once accused of witchcraft and promiscuity, she died in 1551 but her remains were discovered once more in 1931, intact with her burial jewels and robes. Unsurprisingly, they got lost in WWII - perhaps they could have been one of those artifacts hunted by George Clooney in the Monuments Men. Barbara's body was actually scanned and examined for physical ailments in 2001 before being reburied. We now know she was 5'3 and had an aqualine nose. The wonders of science.
Looking out from the parapet wall, its clear why this castle had such a strategic position. It doesn't even look like the scenery has changed all that much.
The inside was nice, but what's a castle without a creepy garden?
This lion definitely lost the memo on "creepy".
This statue is appropriately derelict. At least someone is doing their job around here.
The below sculptures look quite similar to Henry Moore's work. And if I ever find out he at any point in his life visited Ukraine, let alone Olesko, I'm calling it.
Finally, a castle cannot do without a knight.
And a battle of course. Note the different armour of each fighter below - they are a few centuries apart with the right man being somewhere in the 11th century and his foe from the 16th century (or so).
Until next time Olekso.